In many states, sole custody or primary custody arrangements are common among divorced parents. However, parents who are going through a divorce in Maricopa County, Arizona, may find that they are much more likely come out of the process with fairly even shared custody arrangements. A law that went into effect earlier this year has tasked courts with giving the most possible parenting time to each parent, leading to more balanced custody plans.
Custody law changes
The bill, which was passed in 2012 and went into effect at the start of 2013, has a few important impacts on child custody. According to the Arizona Republic, the law represents a shift toward more evenly shared parenting, rather than an arrangement where one parent has the children on weekends or for a couple days a week. The bill, as it is listed on the Arizona State Legislature website, makes all of the following changes:
- The court is now required to fine parents who are dishonest or obstruct proceedings.
- The court cannot discriminate against a parent based on the parent’s gender or the child’s gender.
- The notification standards for parents who intend to move are more rigorous.
- Physical custody is now referred to as parenting time.
- Legal custody is now referred to as legal decision-making authority.
The bill also stipulates that one factor to be considered in custody determinations is which parent is more likely to allow the child to maintain a strong relationship with the other parent. This reflects the new interest in balanced and fair parenting time.
These changes could affect the outcome of many divorce cases. However, parents should also understand the limitations to the new law.
Equal custody not guaranteed
One important thing for parents to understand is that a 50-50 parenting split will not be forced if one parent wants – or can only commit to – less parenting time or if staying with one parent poses a risk to the child. The bill states that the court must consider the following when approving a parenting plan:
- The arrangement that both parents want
- The arrangement that the child wants
- Whether either parent has been guilty of child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- Whether one parent forced the other into a custody agreement
Although the law seeks to encourage joint custody or shared parenting time, this approach won’t be forced if the parents agree to another arrangement or if one parent is not considered a fit custodian. Effectively, instead of awarding one parent primary custody and making the other parent fight for his or her visitation rights, the law ensures that deserving parents have a fair chance at equal custody that maximizes visitation for each parent.
Contact Our Phoenix Divorce Attorneys
If you have children and are preparing to divorce, you should speak with our Phoenix divorce attorneys immediately about creating a parenting plan that will protect your rights and the interests of your children.